Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Established on December
4, 1859, it was situated in the Hoopa Valley on the west bank
of the Trinity River, some 14 miles above its junction with the
Klamath River in Humboldt County. Located within the Hoopa Valley
Indian Reservation, it was intended to both control the area's
Indians and to protect them against hostile depredations. The
post was established by Captain Edmund Underwood, 4th Infantry,
and named for 2nd Lieutenant William Gaston, 1st Dragoons, killed
on May 17, 1854, during the campaign against the Spokane Indians.
Originally called Fort Gaston, it was renamed Camp Gaston on January
1, 1846, and then redesignated Fort Gaston on April 5, 1867. Abandoned
on June 29, 1892, the military reservation was transferred to
the Department of the Interior on February 11, 1892, reserved
for the use of the Indian Service.
Not to be confused for Camp Gaston in Southern California
by Justin Rughe
Fort Gaston was established on December
4, 1858. It was situated in the Hoopa Valley, a rugged deep slash
in the redwood forests, on the west bank of the Trinity River,
some 14 miles above its junction with the Klamath River, Humboldt
County. Located within the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation where
the forest came right to the edge of the Fort, it was intended
to control the area's Native American population and protect
them against hostile depredations.
The post was established by Captain Edmund
Underwood, 4th Infantry, and named for 2nd Lieutenant William
Gaston, 1st Dragoons, killed on May 17, 1858, during the campaign
against the Spokane Native Americans. Originally called Fort
Gaston, it was renamed Camp Gaston on January 1, 1867 and then
redesignated Fort Gaston on April 5, 1879. The Fort consisted
of 37 log and frame buildings on the edge of the Trinity River.
About 200 men were stationed there with the number varying with
time. A large garden was located next to the river.
Fort Gaston had its troubles from the
beginning. Ambushes of mail carriers and stages were common.
At least twice the horses of the mailman and his escort returned
to the Fort without riders. Once a settler found a note left
by the carrier that he was "shot and mortally
wounded." When his escort was located, there was a knife
through his neck and his nose and flesh had been cut from his
On Christmas Day 1863, a reverse type
of battle with the Native Americans took place near Gaston. The
Native Americans were barricaded in several log buildings from
which they were firing at the troops from rifle ports. The Army
surrounded the site and bombarded it with howitzers. By nightfall,
all the ammunition had been used up and the buildings were in
ruins. However, in the darkness, the Native Americans crawled
away in the high grass around the buildings and escaped. A peace
treaty was finally signed with the Native Americans in 1865.
General Order No. 14 abandoned Fort Gaston
on June 29, 1892. The military reservation was transferred to
the Department of the Interior on February 11, 1892 who reserved
it for the Indian Service. In 1980, many of the original buildings
from the Fort still lined the parade ground, then the location
of the Hoopa Indian Agency.
The Reservation is located at Hoopa on
State Route 299, northeast of Eureka, California.
Photograph shows a loaded mule train ready for the trail in front
of the Commanding Officer's House. Circa 1880s
Another image of
a mule train in front of the enlisted barracks
by Colonel Herbert M.
Hart, USMC (Retired)
Fort Gaston almost was the
scene of a Hollywood-type extravaganza back in 1861. That was
when the District Commander decided to gather all of the Indians
to the post, then stage a demonstration of drilling and firepower
that' would convince the Native Americans that they should be
He planned to fire blank
cartridges and the mountain howitzers. The idea fell through when
he suggested to the Presidio that he would need six companies
of infantry for the show.
This came at a time when
troops were being pulled from the forts in the Humboldt. Gaston's
commander protested that the transfer of any more men might have
"The excitement among
the Indians has been great," he wrote. "Although I did
not apprehend an attack from the Indians, I took the necessary
precaution by issuing ammunition to my men and doubling my guards."
He said the local settlers
were building a blockhouse, but would abandon their valley if
any more troops were withdrawn. To complicate matters, he was
the only officer at the post and was in such bad health he could
not leave his room.
Gaston had its troubles
from the day it was' established in 1858. It was in the Hoopa
Valley, a rugged deep slash in the redwood forests of Northern
California, and the woods came right to the edge of the open fort.
Ambushes of mail carriers
and stages were common. At least twice, the horses of the mailman
and his escort returned to the fort without riders. Once a settler
found a note left by the carrier that he was "shot and mortally
wounded." When his escort was located, there was a knife
through his neck and his nose and flesh cut from his face.
On Christmas Day, 1863,
a reverse type of battle with the Indians took place near Gaston.
The Indians holed up in several log buildings, firing at troops
from rifle ports, while the Army blasted them with the howitzers.
Artillery accuracy wasn't too good and most of the first rounds
went wild. By night fall the buildings were in ruins, but in the
darkness the Indians were able to steal away.
Peace was finally signed
with the Indians in 1865. Gaston, alternating between being called
a fort and a camp, stayed in business until 1892 when it was abandoned.
U. S. Grant
house in 1964, one of many in Pacific Northwest, was surgeon's
quarters, supposedly used by Grant when he was at Gaston for
short time in the fifties. Local legend, rather than fact, support
the Grant connection.
Gaston was built around parade ground 600 feet square. Buildings
were of logs and adobe.
indigenous women (tribes unknown) are waiting for food rations
at Fort Gaston in in 1877. Photo courtesy of the Humboldt State
Gaston in 1882 was fairly calm, although woods and hills still
came right up to edge of post. Theater is at far left. cemetery
in trees. barracks behind flagpole commissary storehouse on right.
Gaston in 1964
was reprinted with permission from Old Forts of the Northwest,
published in 1965